tv Abraham Lincoln and Slavery CSPAN January 29, 2017 8:00pm-9:06pm EST
caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer 1: you are watching "american history tv" 48 hours of programming on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. sidney blumenthal spoke before the annual lincoln forum held in gettysburg, pennsylvania about the political forces that shape the 16th presidents view on slavery. he is also the author of "self-made man, the political life of abraham lincoln." we will hear about how lincoln crafted and refined it. [applause] sidney blumenthal: well, thank you very much for those kind and generous words. spend aeen delighted to
number of years in the 19th century, and i'm looking forward to spending more of them there. [laughter] [applause] sidney blumenthal: i am deeply honored for this invitation to address the lincoln forum, and i think -- thank chief williams, the chairman, and carol hauser, the vice-chairman, who have both devoted themselves for decades to writing and education on abraham lincoln. and i particularly pleased to be .ere on the 21st lincoln forum as frank noted, this year i published the first of a multivolume political biography of lincoln entitled "the self-made man." it describes a poor, stunted and oppressed boy who hammers
together, on his own, the elements of the men who will be lincoln. the second volume, to be published next year, entitled wrestling with his angel places lincoln entering the political wilderness after leaving the congress and emerging as the man who was lincoln. i am speaking here tonight about this crucible, the period in which lincoln committed himself to putting slavery on the course of ultimate extinction as he declared in his cooper union address. and as he grappled to create the means to his ends. lincoln had always been, as he put it, naturally anti-slavery. he was only one of two state legislators early in his career to oppose -- propose
emancipation in the district of columbia. as a congressman, he crafted a pragmatic plan to achieve that purpose, so the atmosphere in washington at the time was so for bidding at the time that he didn't manage to introduce it. lincoln was then a stalwart member of the whig party whose existence depended upon its incoherence on the question of slavery. the slavery became unavoidable central issue in american politics, the whigs disintegrated. and in that chaos, lincoln committed himself to a struggle that did not culminate until his assassination. lincoln understood that, in taking on slavery, he was taking on the most entrenched power in the country. it was a moral test, and we are
here at gettysburg where lincoln talked of tests, and it was a simply -- a supreme clinical test. slavery was the greatest form of concentrated wealth, the organizing force for southern political control over all branches of the federal government and was allied with influential northern men of southern sympathy. two years before lincoln's election as president, in july 1858, even as he was running for the senate against his perpetual rival, stephen a douglas, lincoln wondered whether he would ever witnessed slavery's fall. i have never professed and indifference to the honors of official station, and were i to do so now, i should only make myself ridiculous. he wrote this as he was duringting his thoughts
that senate campaign. it yes, he said, i have never failed. do not now failed to remember ,hat in the republican cause there is a higher aim than that of mere office. i am not alone myself to forget that the abolition of the slave trade by great britain was agitated 100 years before it was of final success, that the measure had its open fire eating opponents, its stealthy don't care opponents, is dollar-intent opponents, its inferior race equality, its negro opponents, and its religion and good order opponents, that all of these opponents got adversaries -- not offices and their adversaries got none.
but i have also remembered that though they blazed like hallowed candles first century, at last, out, andkered and died were remembered no more. even by the smell. schoolboys know that wilberforce and granville sharp the great at -- sharp, the great english abolitionists, held this go forward, but who can name a single man now? i cannot regard it as possible that the higher object of this contest may not be completely obtained in my natural life, but i cannot doubt eager -- either that it will come in due time, and even in this view, i am time in my passing spec of
to contribute a humble might to that glorious consummation which my own poor eyes may not last to see. one termaham lincoln's in the congress and his return to his spare law office in the tinsley building in springfield, illinois, he stared into the distance for long periods of time. his law partner, william henry herded, heard this cry of anguish. he said gloomily, despairingly, oh how hardrpart, it is to die and leave one countries no better than if one had never lived for it. the world is dead to hope. death to its own death struggle. made known by a universal pride.
what is to be done? is anything to be done? who can do anything, and how is it to be done? did you ever think of these things? a great revolution was required to bring lincoln out of the wilderness. lincoln would be diminished, simplified, and flattened into a one-dimensional, one-dimensional character without the complexity he had to work through. rose and fell. the party of lincoln, the whig party, flew apart. #movements raged across the landscape. the old party distinctions were erased, but there were no new and more compelling distinctions on the shelf van the nascent republican party, originally a sectarian, radical, outlying
group, was not recognized as a credible alternative. an anti-immigrant movement, the know nothings, overall attracted many, many more adherents. an older generation of political titans departed. the opposing triumvirate of henry clay, daniel webster and john c calhoun, none having reached the presidency that each desperately sought, all ultimately victims of their own curdled hopes. with their passing the conflicts likelitical ages, faded yelling newspapers. seen --ould have for half are seen -- have foreseen the events when zachary taylor was elected president as the big partycandidate -- whig
candidates. he was asked euro of politics, a southern -- hero of politics, a southern slaveholder with no record on any issue, standing on no platform whatsoever. old rough and ready was assumed to be the ideal wooden figurehead for the ship of state as intellectually as opaque as an in the matter it -- as an inanimate object. [laughter] sidney blumenthal: and articulate in what was perceived to be creaking noises, he was utterly lacking in experience with the cunning men of the congress who expected to run the show. it was a revelation that taylor turned out to have clear and emphatic views, and a shock that he was strongly against the extension of slavery in the
territory he had seized as the price of the mexican war. he threatened a declaration of war against these southern rights movement if it previously opposed him -- if it treason is -- treasonously opposed him. he would draw his sword to leave the army to crush resistance. as abruptly as taylor stunned the south, he was struck down, probably by the cholera epidemic sweeping the country. presidency is due for a revisionist history after grant's, it may be tailored's short, -- taylor's short, tragic one. the civil war that seemed eminent turned into -- imminent turned into an armistice. they turned to millard fillmore,
elevated to vice presidency from his rightful station as the new york state comptroller. had an unusual temperament, melding bland licensee and overheated resentment. determined to discard the wealth dividing intentions of taylor, who had banished him as a nonentity from his councils, fillmore compromised in 1850 with the permanent settlement. its political effect was to stifle slavery as a national controversy, deliver a mortal , splitting whigs them into northern and similar -- and southern wings, and empowering the democrats as the natural governing party. the landslide election of 1852 appearede in to settle the political question
far to the horizon, but this was an illusion. beneath the serene surface on which pierce skated to the presidency was a roiling sea. a well mannered northern man of southern sympathy, he was client -- pious under pressure. the grandiose hatred of others easily overwhelmed him as he turned to brandy for solace, and an old friend, a mexican war comrade, for guidance, jefferson davis. ones and future rivals of lincoln combined to blow to smithereens the cornerstone of civil and political peace. senator stephen a douglas of illinois, seeking a transforming
gesture that would bring him the presidency and secretary of war jefferson davis of mississippi, the high-handed heir to slaveholding wealth and the de facto president of the united states. each had visions of an american imperial, prophecies that converged in their collaboration on the kansas-nebraska act, and act which revealed the missouri compromise that a forbidden slavery north of a faithful line of latitude would parallel the lines -- latitude. the parallel lives of these two men would intersect with lincoln's. the passage of the kansas -nebraska act on may 30, 1854, lincoln and his friends joined the battle.
paper, in springfield, asu possibly by herndon always with lincoln's opposable -- approval appeared under a miking -- mocking headline. if there is the least evidence that the people of the free states are disposed to sit down quietly under the accumulated insult and wrongs thought to be inflicted on this slavery extension administration and its servile supporters, we do not see evidence of it. on the contrary, almost everywhere, we see a general uprising and condemnation by the people of the wanton, uncalled for, and grievous wrong, sought to be inflicted upon this country by pierce, douglas, and company. douglas' newspaper, the
illinois state register, returned the fire, editorializing against the illinois state journal and lincoln and his friends. and i was somewhat hesitant about reading this, but i am going to quote it directly, because this is what lincoln had to contend with. in his day. and this is what stephen a douglas' newspaper under his direction, and he is realized -- editorialized. it said that the journal opens its batteries upon senator flake bill,s' nebraska renewing the agitation of the nigger question by furiously charging douglas with opening that question. and it went on. niggerdom is preparing for a new
onslaught, and as lincoln began to draw together the nebraska coalition, the register warned the people of this district will want pledges against all gerism, andith nig it praised old whigs who refuses did -- who resisted the infusion of niggerism. from that moment through his 1858 debates with douglas to his reelection campaign of 1864, when he was called abraham africanus i, lincoln's political skill and personal endurance required to prevail in the face of on ending blasts of .acially-charged demagoguery in a stroke, at that moment in 1854, the old order cracked
apart. all that had been proclaimed to be permanent shattered into pieces, everything settled came undone. the kansas nebraska act made possible the extension of slavery to the west, there is only one element in the strategy to create a slave empire in the hemisphere, as lincoln would put it. surveyorln, the former , precisely measured the fishers of the conflict -- fissures of the conflict. lincoln the lawyer carefully constructed his arguments political and constitutional eerie link in the politician coolly calculated the force of his opponents and the potential coalition of his allies. lincoln the defender of the declaration of independence invoked the blood of the revolution. lincoln the shakespearean
invoked blood and blood. stepping on the stage of his free to speak at the house of the illinois statehouse of representatives, he never left it. to prepare for the event, he sequestered himself at the library of the state capital as he drafted his speech. he constructed a coherent, intellectual argument, massing the arguments of the political, political coalition that would become the republican party. he drew on the doctrines of the anti-slavery movement, of the defunct liberty party and its chief theorist, senator salmon p chase of ohio, incorporating the idea of the declaration of independence as integral to the constitution, which he argued was an anti-slavery doctrine. he co-opted the ambiguous figure of thomas jefferson,
slaveholding father of the democratic party, as author not only of the declaration which declared all men are created equal, but also the inspiration for the northwest ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the territories. all honor to jefferson proclaimed lincoln. in his speech at. of -- at peoria, lincoln remarked on the subject restoration of politics as a consequence of the clear and present danger. we were thunderstruck and stunned, he said, and we reel in utter confusion, but we rose each fighting, grasping, whatever he could first reach, acai, a pittsburgh -- a sigh, a pitchfork, or a pitchers -- butcher's cleaver.
we are rapidly closing in upon him. he and -- him and he for lincoln are stephen a douglas -- must not think to die for us from our purpose. howard drilled, our weapons are not entirely perfect in uniform. when the storm shall be passed, he shall find us still americans, no less devoted to the continued union and prosperity of the country's end heretofore. brief autobiographies, lincoln depicted himself in this period as strangely contended in a time of imperturbable internal exile, becoming merely indifferent to politics, immersed in his legal practice. wicked electoral ticket
-- whig electoral ticket, i was wheng interest in politics the repeal of the missouri compromise aroused me again. what i have done since then is pretty well known. friend, this to his in 1859 as he was contemplating his race for the presidency. on another short account, he told the journalists of the chicago tribune, in 1854, his profession had almost superseded the politics in his mind when the repeal of the missouri compromise aroused him as he had never been before. but the legend -- legend of cinncinatus, the roman bureaucrat who wanted to rescue the republic, the story that had
draped in washington with classical prestige, did not properly fit lincoln. he was not a hero above the fray who reluctantly felt duty-bound to descend into the political arena. while the whigs had a tradition of drawing on a variation of the with generalseme for president, william henry harrison and others, pretenders to the washington mantle, the professional politician who was interested and seemed with anxiety about his own and the country's future was hardly part of that line. that was about this decisive juncture in lincoln's career in 1954 when he revealed himself as recognizably lincoln that herndon, his law partner, wrote the most famous description of his ambition. that man who thinks lincoln
calmly sat down and gathered his robes about him, waiting for the people to call him, has a very lincoln. knowledge of he was always calculating and always planning ahead. his ambition was a little engine that new no rest. -- knew no rest. time was not standing still waiting for lincoln to make his emergence. it was accelerating all along. time may have been in different to him, but he was not in different to the time. lincoln could not have entered as a cogent and capable political actor policy maintained a grasp of the nuances unfolding for years. during that interregnum between when he left the congress and spoke against the kansas-nebraska act, there was
little he could do to advance the whig party which collapsed under the strains of both false peace and harsh conflict. lincoln only seemed to be offstage. he did not disappear, even if his name did not prominently appear. even while amply on his horse called bob from county house to county house in the judicial circuit of illinois, he was constantly attending to what was happening beyond it. his fixation on douglas never wavered. his attention on the larger events was neither inadvertent nor casual, nor was he present merely by implication or illusion. he was out of the limelight, but the rapidly spinning world was under his gaze. lincoln and herndon maintains the best private library in
town, subscribed to newspapers and journals from across the country and from london, and both regularly wrote editorials for the illinois state journal. his legal circuit was also his political network. it would spring to life when his political career did too. he never ceased his travels around a changing illinois with a spectacular growth of chicago and the mass influx of german immigrants were radically reconfiguring the political calculus. the honing of his legal skills simultaneously sharpened his political ones. his nocturnal study of euclid's elements enabled him to master the geometry of both law and politics. he was also capable of cold realism about his own limitations. he quickly unhappily him to
accept the formidable corporate attorney, edwin stanton's roofless dismissal of his talents -- ruthless dismissal of his talents in 1854. lincoln knew then he would never rise to stanton's level in the profession, and that is true ability and opportunity, his square root lay in politics. , itincoln's party disintegrated beneath him, but the necessity of political parties never left him. he clung to the whole -- hull of the sinking which party longer partyome -- whig party longer than some. in this party chaos, lincoln cast himself into the world. as his party splintered, he began holding the framework of another one, even when he did
not know he was doing so. overlappingts often , swirled into vacuum. movements against slavery, movements against immigrants, movements against trains. but the nativist and temperance movement confounded the development of the anti-slavery one. antislavery democrats and withslavery with -- whigs long grudges to regard each other with suspicion. politics were suffused with sectarianism and asserted itself as the core of a new alignment, though it could not itself very -- verynage a volatilearied or coalition. some people understood that more
proficient and did political leaders were required to draw the elements together, was brought into lincoln's doorstep. at first, he dodged them. but then he led them. fromg sense of the crisis the background, lincoln moved with his own timing to the foreground. he observed the drama ruminated on a political mind, continually at work. wondering how he might move forward, how he would break through. for years, he wrestled. the decline and fall of the whigs did not mean there would be a new party by and for linkedin. there was no imperative except that which was in lincoln himself. developed his sense of -- meetingts meeting
over decades. numerouso superstitions. he had visions, the image in the mirror, believing an omen of his death foretold. events wasnt with not mystical nor passive adaptation. in retrospect, his closest contemporaries thought him prescient. lincoln's whole life was a calculation of the law of forces and also met -- and ultimate results. the world to him was a question of cause and effect. this was recalled by his colleague leonard sweat. he thought causes would surely follow. he did not believe those results could be materially hastened or
impeded. his political landscape, especially since the agitation of the slavery question, has been based upon this theory. he believed from the first, i think, that the agitation of slavery would produce its overthrew. and he acted upon the resolve, although it was it was presence from the beginning. his tactics to get himself in the right place and remain there still until events would find him in that place. the springfield market and whig partisan who funded lincoln's campaigns -- and lincoln did have campaign funders -- and followed lincoln's direction, showed lincoln unique among politicians . these things which i state as
facts of my own knowledge, bund affirmed, showed lincoln was a practical politician, but he was not altogether like many other practical politicians. he had his personal ambitions, but he never told any man is deeper plans and few if any new his inner thoughts. his inner thoughts. lincoln's career proved it is possible for someone to be adroit and skillful and effective in politics without in any degree sacrificing moral principles. little men try to do the same things he did and make very bad work of it. high, morale inspiration that animated lincoln. presents the most remarkable case in american history of a man who could be a practical politician and at the same time, be a statesman in the
highest sense of both terms. manalong, the self-made educated himself in the politics of democracy. power for lincoln was always a contest, but it became more than a matter of winning or losing or even claiming the spoils. in the past, with one party arrayed against another, predictable partisanship prevailed from election to election. but now the gyroscope of politics was smashed, the parties broken. what he and others called the slave power suddenly transformed everything. grounded in the monday skills of the democracy that had shaped him, he had to -- the mundane skills of the democracy that had shaped him, he had to rise to extraordinary heights.
lincoln and stephen a douglas had been rivals for decades, but beginning in 1854, they were locked in mortal combat. douglas blais the path for lincoln. -- glazed the path for lincoln -- blazed the path for lincoln. he entered into the political field and by force of his character, mind, eloquence, he became our abolition leader. he was too conservative for some of us and i among them, and yet i stuck to lincoln in the hopes of his sense of justice and eternal right. for years, lincoln turned over in his mind the matters of slavery to democracy until in 1855 he began to envision the prospect of civil war. i think that there is no peaceful extinction of slavery in prospect for us. robertson, aeorge
kentucky judge who was a friend of his wife's family. the single failure of henry clay , wrote lincoln, and other good and great men in 1849 to affect anything in gradual emancipation in kentucky, together with 1000 other signs, fixing wishes that hope utterly. lincoln would -- extinguishes that hope utterly. lincoln would write, our political problem is can we as a nation continue together permanently forever, half slave and half free? and 1840 -- 54, 18 million immigrants arrived in the country. 18% were irish catholics. another 40% or germans from the failed liberal revolution of 1848. conservative protestants viewed
the irish especially as a source of crime, corruption, and poverty. both the irish and germans were beer drinkers, a habit that aroused temperance crusaders who condemned them as drunken, lazy, and sinful. the no nothing party sprang from a small nativist sect in new york called the order of the star-spangled banner. within months after the 1852 election, they got more than 18 million. the program held only protestant-born citizens should hold public office under the slogan. on monday -- americans only shall govern america. amid this crisis, lincoln wondered in 1855 how he could be effective fighting slavery while maintaining his identity in the crumbling whig party. where did lincoln place himself? who did he think he was, and what was he?
on august 24, 1855, he wrote his intimate friend joshua speed with whom he had shared a room in springfield and have was now presiding over his kentucky plantation as a slaveholder. you inquire where i now stand, wrote lincoln. that is a disputed point. i think i am a wig, but others say there are no whigs, and that i am a abolitionist. when i was in washington i voted for the proviso as good as 40 times, and i never heard of anyone trying to un-whig me for that. i now do no more than impose the extension of slavery -- oppose the extension of slavery. when lincoln was a proviso man in the congress before the great whig victory of 1848, he was living in another era. now his party was rapidly coming apart around him under the
pressure of circumstances. how would he align himself with these events? that consumed his thoughts more than the disputed point for others, but also for himself. not least in the forefront of his thinking was the threat of the know nothings, attracting many of my old political and personal friends, as he told the illinois abolitionist and early republican party organizer owen lovejoy. in observing the wig party itself, i am not a know nothing. that is certain, he wrote joshua speed. how can i be? how can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? our progress in degeneracy appears to be pretty rapid.
as a nation, we began by declaring all men are created equal. we now practically read it all men are created equal except negroes. when the know nothings get control, it will be, all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and catholics. when it comes to this, i should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty, to russia for instance. [laughter] sidney blumenthal: where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. [laughter] sidney blumenthal: lincoln had unfurled the declaration of independence as a shield against the extension of slavery. now he raided against the know
nothings. now you invoke the declaration not as a comparative tyranny to slavery but to nativism. state-by-state, the new republican party was organized. in new york, senator william seward, who had been a leader there, called in october to become leader of the republicans, for familiar friends to leave behind -- leave hearties.solving he talked about the spirit of the american revolution against the aristocracy, a privilege class of slaveholders, 1/100 part of the entire population, the 1% that had fleeced -- had seized control of the federal government. what then is wanted? ,rganization, organization nothing but organization. 1856, a group of
anti-slavery newspaper editors enjoyed it -- invited lincoln to join them to create the illinois republican party. lincoln was abstinent at the and, recalled herndon, believing what i knew his final -- feelings on this work, i took the liberty to sign his name to the cause. [laughter] sidney blumenthal: john t. stewert, lincoln's first partner, trying to remove lincoln's endorsement. no sooner had it appeared that john t stewart was trying to retard lincoln in his advanced movements, rushed into the access -- office and see if lincoln had seen the abolition call in the journal. i answered in the negative saying i had signed his name myself, to the question did
lincoln authorize you to sign it, i returned an emphatic no. then exclaimed the startled and indignant stewart, you have ruined him. i thought i understood lincoln thoroughly, herndon wrote, but in order to vindicate myself, if i failed, i immediately sat down after stewart rushed out of the office and wrote lincoln, who was attending court. a brief account of what i had done and how much start was creating in the ranks of his conservative friends. if he approved or disapproved, i wrote for him to telegraph me at once. in a brief time in his answer. all right, go ahead. we will meet you, radicals and all. , georgemeeting schneider, editor of the german szeitung newspaper stat proposed a plague denouncing
know nothingism. the nativist rejected it. the congress threatened to collapse. schneider announced he would submit his revolution -- resolution to lincoln and abide by his decision. gentleman, declared lincoln, the resolution introduced by mr. schneider is nothing new. it is already contained in the declaration of independence. and you cannot form a party on prescriptive principles, for lincoln, opposing nativism was the same as opposing slavery. this data -- declaration, schneider recalled, saved the resolution and in fact helped establish the new party on the most liberal, democratic basis. thus lincoln's judgment made possible the creation of the illinois republican party, which became the instrument that would carry him to the republican nomination for president.
when he hurtled on the train to bloomington illinois -- bloomington, illinois for the founding convention on may 29, 1856, it was familiar trip to a place he had visited many times to practice the law at the home of his friends, david davis and jesse fellow, who would play instruments in his rise. but at this time, the uproar of events heralded his entrance. on may 21, 1856, former senator , led an army of misery, proceeded -- proslavery misery it slaveholders -- missouri slaveholders into the state of lawrence, kansas to ransack it. the next day in the senate, while senator charles sumner of massachusetts sat writing at his
brooksongressman preston of south carolina battered him relentlessly on his head with a gold handled cane, nearly killing him. in retribution for sumner's mocking speech entitled, the crime against kansas or the bloodstreams across the floor of the senate. two days later on may 24, along pottawatomie creek in kansas, john brown and his band of volunteers hacked five proslavery men to death. five days later, with lincoln proclaimed himself as a republican before the convention of the new party he founded, it was among the most significant events in the coming of the civil war. ultimately, ralph waldo emerson would declare his mind mastered
the problem of the day, and so as the problem grew, so did his comprehension of it. rarely was a man so fitted to the event. wasmystical emerson evoked a serene providence which rules the state of nations, makes its own demand for the time, trains him in poverty, inspires his genius and arms him for the task. within two years of shutting the husk of the weight party and assuming the identity of a republican, lincoln founded his own ever sony and -- emersonian note about destiny, but it was biblical in town. if we could know where we are and whether we are attending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. he declared in his house divided speech of june 1858. his sense of time and time it had become acute.
the fight must go on, he would write to a friend two weeks after his defeat to douglas in the 1858 senate race, because of senate race. -- the cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one or even 100 defeats. douglas had the ingenuity, said lincoln, to be supportive in the contest both as the best means to break down and to uphold the slave interest. no ingenuity can keep those antagonistic elements in harmony long. another explosion will soon come. by then, lincoln had already been carried along by explosion after explosion. lincoln's political education was long, but the moment of lincoln's awakening from his political slumber, emerging at last as the lincoln we know in history, was relatively sudden.
in early 1855, travel in the county court circuits, staying overnight in a boarding house, his discussion with a former judge and fellow lawyer, jean lyle dickey, a conservative old the, went on deep into night. judge dickey confirmed that slavery was a institution that the constitution recognized and which cannot be disturbed. lincoln argued that ultimately extinct,ust become recalled another illinois lawyer. after a while, said dickey, we went upstairs to bed. there were two beds in our room, and i remember that lincoln set up in his nightshirt on the edge of the bed arguing the point with me. at last, we went to sleep.
early in the morning, i woke up, and there was lincoln half sitting up in bed. lincoln, i tell you, this nation cannot exist half slave and half free. oh, linocoln replied dickey. go to sleep. thank you. [applause] >> questions? right here, come up to the microphone. sidney blumenthal: stand. >> well, first of all, welcome
to the 19th century. [laughter] sidney blumenthal: i may not leave. hope that this speech will become the epilogue of your next volume. -- last volume. sidney blumenthal: this contains a lot of the story of the next volume which is coming out. >> now, my own feeling i have come to is that among the important things that lincoln , it was in his life nice that he ended slavery, great that he kept the union, but it seems the most important thing was, he, in the face of his own lyrical party -- political party, he said no extension of slavery into the territory. to me, that was the most important thing that he did. even the war was to come, which it came. now i am going to go into your book for a moment though and say, you say, and here is
something of catherine in mind here, you say merry lincoln -- mary lincoln was highly important to whom lincoln became, and maybe lincoln would not have been lincoln without her. i would like you to talk about that. sidney blumenthal: thank you, dan. mary lincoln has become somewhat of an easy figure for people to dismiss and to discredit and to the great and even defame -- and degrade and even defame, but there would have been no lincoln without mary. [applause] mary lincolnthal: was difficult. she was volatile. an upbringing that
created all sorts of problems for her. she had -- her mother died. her stepmother was that of cinderella. she loves her father, but he neglected her. cap on said -- set her lincoln. they had a tumultuous, confused relationship in which lincoln often, they can did not understand how to handle the members of the opposite sex, and eventually he and mary came and she referred it to their marriage as our lincoln party. and in the beginning, there were only two members at this party. and it was lincoln and mary. she was and highly unusual woman in that she was political.
she grew up in a political household. her father was a business partner and political ally of henry clay here is she knew clay, she talked to clay i think at nine years old, she said she wanted to marry the next president and told him that. she had political opinions. she had political experience, she pushed her husband when he faltered. as great as his ambition was, there were moments when even lincoln faltered, but he had someone behind him pushing him, and that was mary. she made sure that he would not settle for something easy and more comfortable when she felt that he was greater than even he thought he was himself. opinionsad views and on everybody and everything, and she was also among the -- unusual among the women of the day who were not supposed to speak in company about politics in making sure that people knew her views.
so mary lincoln is very much an indispensable part of the lincoln story. >> yes. >> yep, i haven't had a chance to read your book, but i am curious how much michael burlingame had on your research and your book? sidney blumenthal: i think his work is terrific, just the -- and i -- he has done more detailed work that many, many other people, and i find not only his book pictured merrily helpful -- book extraordinarily helpful in guidance, but also his scholarship. i love reading his footnotes. and i find that michael done some ofs also the original work in discovering which editorials lincoln wrote
in the illinois state journal anonymously. and i know that work goes on for him, and it is always interesting to discover how much lincoln wrote that we don't even know about. so thank you for that. >> i am very much looking forward to reading your second volume, particularly based on the way you pulled it together here. bringing your perspective takes me back to senator albert beveridge of indiana who brought his perspective to his second volume which covered the same period. i have always wrestled with the issue of the house divided speech when lincoln says so strongly, and he repeats it movementes, that the in the country seems to be towards nationalizing slavery, that the slavery will somehow be
on the north. what is your interpretation of what he is driving up when he uses this argument? did he believe it? was it an approach he thought would have a particular political effect? i would like your thoughts on -- having't written written volume that tells that story. sidney blumenthal: the house divided speech was opposed by his more conservative friends who had been old whigs like lionel dickey. and lincoln was insistent on getting this speech. it was considered to be somewhat of a radical statement on his part. i think we have to remember that this speech was given a year after the dred scott decision, which was widely seen as opening not only the territories to slavery but potentially opening up the free states to slavery.
as a political matter, it was explosive, and lincoln did not hesitate to seize upon it and was making a very dragon -- driven argument. it was not an uncommon argument. some people got in trouble being andttle too epigrammatic eloquent and clambered -- and clever like seward talking about this irrepressible conflict. lincoln's was more scriptural talking about the house divided. and a little more oblique. illinois is a little more conservative than new york, where seward was talking. but without that, lincoln could not have galvanized his party and held that coalition together and would never have moved
forward beyond his senate defeat had he not given that speech. me.obody is behind you said at the very beginning he had aalk that higher aim that office. -- than office. when you think he started thinking about the presidency as something that he could bring to the country, because he had such a unique capability that he had confidence in? sidney blumenthal: that is an interesting question. actions after own his defeat in the 1858 senate race create contradictory evidence. friends want his , heto run, others do not
seems to push them away. he is also drawn to it. meanwhile at the same time, he is very assiduously making sure that the correct transcript, as he understands it of the lincoln douglas debates, are being published and circulated nationally to what end? >> catherine. >> hi, thank you, i so enjoyed your amount -- your remarks. sidney blumenthal: thank you. ani hope that you being observer of contemporary politics and a lot of what you brought in, i was struck in terms of the know nothings, and you are addressing that. in terms of lincoln's thought, i am so impressed. i'm listening to a book on tape here. i have only gotten through 18 discs. going back,ther 18
but i was struck by the way in which lincoln. early on was so attuned to the issue of bringing immigrants into the process and especially during the war and appointments. maybe that is ahead of where you are now, but i was wondering if you could give us some more on lincoln's giving us insights into the way we must maintain an umbrella and go back to that original document and try and make america a country for all. >> let me just discussed the immigrant question in the context of lincoln. am a native of illinois. lincoln, for much of his life, lived in the most racist northern state with the most are akoni and black coat.
it was a very conservative state , populated by many people from kentucky, like his own family or becausehad fled slavery his father did not want to compete for wages against slaves among other things. it was a very different health whigs, even they were too liberal. but then something happened, immigration. when the germans came, that changed the state. state at thethe same time the city of chicago took off with the building of , a illinois central railroad great project. and the beginning of industrial -- industrialization.
and suddenly there was a north in illinois. they had been a central illinois in the southern illinois, but suddenly that tipped the balance 1858,er so that in lincoln actually won the popular vote. understood these dynamic factors involved in immigration. the liberalization that the immigrants brought as a. never made a public statement against the know nothings in this. -- these are private letters that i was reading from. those are deep held sentiments. in another letter which i did says, we have to wait this out, they will play themselves out and lose, and
then i can bring them in. lincoln is trying to get the old whigings, his comrades in his party, into this new coalition without offending them. .e does other things as well in this next book, i found some new material where he engages in some chicanery in the city of chicago to his friends to undermine the know nothings while stephen a douglas is doing the same thing on the other side to try and upend the republican party. there are a lot of city politics going on. [laughter] >> lincoln and his friends are not away from it. so, this is really difficult
politics dealing with nativism. it is central to being able to hold together a very combustible coalition. history, this has been a very difficult issue. >> one more. >> i am from pay only, pennsylvania. be that as it may, based on the many things you have offered this evening in your presentation, especially about the time. of the 1850's, cannot some parallel be drawn comparing that to our most recent presidential election? [laughter] quote from i could
the original british version of you might sayds," that, but i could not possibly comment. [laughter] >> thank you very much. announcer: you are watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend, on c-span three. to join the conversation, like us on these book at c-span history. announcer: author and historian richard frank talks about america's post-world war ii relationship with japan. he talks about emperor your veto in efforts to set up a food this region network. this hour-long talk was part of a multi-day conference in new orleans entitled "